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Némirovsky - Additional Background Information

From Women in European History

World War II: The Jewish Question and Nazi Germany and Its Allies

The Jewish question refers to the issues of the “historic unequal, legal, and national status” between Jews and non-Jews, specifically in Europe. WHO ARE YOU QUOTING HERE? Specifically in relation to World War II and the Holocaust, the Jewish question was more precisely defined as “a neutral expression for the negative attitude toward the apparent and persistent singularity of the Jews as a people against the background of the rising political nationalisms and new nation-states.”[1] YOU CAN CERTAINLY CITE WIKIPEDIA, BUT I DON'T THINK IT'S WORTH QUOTING IT DIRECTLY. CAN YOU PUT THIS IN YOUR OWN WORDS? Yet, this characterization of Jews as a people “against nationalism,” which in some instances may have only been perceived AS? IN? opposition rather than actual resistance to nationalism, arises as a result of the fact that in Europe, Jews had no nation of their own. Being nationless individuals, Jews were then targeted immediately as hostile towards nationalism because they had no nation of their own, and being in the midst of a second major world war nationalism was an issue of great significance in Europe.

In the 1840’s, Bruno Bauer posed the argument that the nature of Jewish religion was particularly key in the lack of assimilation of Judaism, given that it was based on the belief that its followers were the “chosen people” by God.[1] Later, in response to Bauer’s claims, Karl Marx responded with his own theory that Jewish social and economic constrains were primary factors for the inability of Jews to assimilate within society.[1]Yet, despite the reasoning of these two major philosophers, the issue of the Jewish question still remained, and upon the rise to power of Nazi Germany this question changed from more neutrally viewing Jews as separated or unassimilated within society to that separation being a fundamental problem for the state.[1]

The most notable instance of the Jewish question coming to the forefront AWKWARD, yielding arguably one of the most devastating instances of systematic persecution and mass murder, was the Holocaust during World War II. Fueled by the blatant calls for the extinction of the entire Jewish race by Nazi Germany and its allies, Jewish persecution progressed in stages of increasing intensity and discrimination, culminating ultimately with the genocide of nearly six million European Jews.

Basing its platform on the progression and purification of the Aryan race, the Nazi party enforced persecution of all social “undesirables” in Germany and all of its occupied territories, which included France during the early 1940s. Their social ostracization began initially with the Nazi’s forcing all Jews to carry papers of wear yellow badges in public for identification and obligatory relocation to poor, isolated ghettos.[2] The Nazi’s party’s solution to the Jewish question was to employ drastic action and eliminate the race, in fact, the initial plans for what would become the systematic killing of Jews and other “undesirables” in Nazi concentration camps was titled “‘Final Solution of the Jewish Question’ (Endlösung der Judenfrage),” the final and most deadly stage of the Holocaust.[2]

(For further information on Nazi Germany, the Jewish question, and the Holocaust, see Traudl Junge, Wanda Poltawska, Charlotte Delbo, Edith Hahn Beer,Margarete Buber-Neumann, as well as Wikipedia articles on the Jewish question, Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, and World War II)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Wikipedia contributors, "Jewish question," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_question (accessed May 25, 2010)..
  2. 2.0 2.1 Wikipedia contributors, "Nazi Germany," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_Germany (accessed May 25, 2010).

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